Both concerned parents and activists who have no children have been flooding school board meetings across the country yelling and threatening each other over critical race theory and whether we should be teaching our children American History starting with our Founding Fathers and the American Revolution when we won our liberty from the British in 1776, or should we teach our children that our country was originally built on the unpaid labor and bones of slaves since the first was shipped over in 1619 with the first colonists? What role did slavery play in the founding of our nation, and when did slavery end? Finally, when discussing what books should be included in young students’ lessons, one book has stirred considerable controversy, Beloved, by Tomi Morrison. […]
Many white protestors at School Board meetings have only a vague notion of what Critical Race Theory means, other than somehow it is a communist plot by blacks, or that it intends to make white children feel guilty about themselves or their country, in essence they want teachers to teach their white children some variation of the Lost Cause myth, that the Civil War was not caused by slavery, that the Civil War was fought for states’ rights, and that the North should not have invaded the South by arms. […]
Did the Civil War lead to a Second Founding of the United States? Eric Foner in his book with that title on the Reconstruction amendments and his other books on the Reconstruction era argues forcefully that the Civil War was a political turning point for this country. Before the Civil War, each state determined its own racial policies, but the politics of slavery, then white supremacy, proved so repugnant to the North that it passed these three amendments. […]
Day after day Father Tolton was seen coming in or out of the shacks, the rat-infested hovels and tenement houses. He listened compassionately to complaints of unemployment, desertion, injustice, depravity. Father Tolton knew how to bring hope and comfort to the sick and dying; he knew how to mitigate human suffering and sorrow because eh himself had experienced the lash of the slave driver as well as the lash of the white man’s tongue. […]
Booker T Washington’s autobiography, Up From Slavery, offers an interesting glimpse in what it was like to be born a slave, live through the tumultuous Civil War era, and as a young man to experience the consequences blacks faced with the end of Reconstruction when the Ku Klux Klan night-riders enslaved the former black slaves anew through terror by lynching them, burning their bodies and their farm and their churches, suppressing them and denying them justice, even denying them the ability to defend themselves in daylight through the courts. […]
Dubois’ subhead reads: “How civil war in the South began again, indeed had never ceased; and how black Prometheus bound to the Rock of Ages by hate, hurt an humiliation, has his vitals eaten out as they grow, yet lives and fights.” Dubois continues: “The civil war in the South which overthrew Reconstruction was a determined effort to reduce black labor as nearly as possible to a condition of unlimited exploitation and build a new class of capitalists on this foundation. The wage of the Negro, despite the war amendments, was to be reduced to the level of bare subsistence by taxation, peonage, caste, and every form of discrimination, in open defiance of the clear letter of the law.”
An eyewitness tells a Senate Committee: “Some planters held back their former slaves on their plantations by brute force. Armed bands of white men patrolled the country roads to drive back the Negroes wandering about. Dead bodies of murdered Negroes were found on and near the highways and byways. Gruesome reports came from the hospitals, reports of colored men and women whose ears had been cut off, whose skulls had been broken by blows, whose bodies have been slashed by knives or lacerated with scourges. A veritable reign of terror prevailed in many parts of the South.” […]
There have been disagreements among the Civil Rights leaders, particularly in the decades following the Redemption era. There was definite tension between those who were followers of Booker T Washington, the accommodationist, and WEB Dubois, the activist. They are like the good cop and bad cop of early Civil Rights history.
These two pioneering black leaders were from two generations. Booker T Washington lived from 1856 through 1915 and was the last black leader who witnessed the emancipation of slaves during the Civil War. WEB Dubois was born later and lived longer, from 1868 through 1963. WEB Dubois earned his PhD in history from Harvard and was part of the Talented Tenth movement who believed that black leaders should seek higher education to better enable them to champion the causes of their race. […]
Southerners were stubborn, Southerners were intransigent, Southerners could never accept St Paul’s declaration that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It was anathema, unthinkable, incomprehensible that Southerners, and many Northerners, would ever regard negroes as equal to free white men, in their eyes negroes were inferior, they would always be subservient. General Sherman may have burned Atlanta and destroyed livestock, crops, and railroads in his mark to the sea; General Grant may have continually fought and flanked Robert E Lee until he was cornered and cut off from supplies at Appomattox; these two Union generals may have momentarily exhausted the ability of the Southern generals to continue the war; but the true Civil War to change racial attitudes is a war that is being fought to this very day.
The South may have lost the Civil War, but it won the peace. The history of Reconstruction is in three phases. In Presidential Reconstruction lenient terms entice the Southern states back into the Union, but the South overreaches, enacting black codes so harsh that they effectively re-enslave the free blacks to their former masters, denying blacks any rights as citizens. Radical Reconstruction is enacted when many in the North to be outraged by the attitudes of their Confederates, the Radical Republicans gain a veto-proof majority in both houses of Congress, the South is placed under military rule, and new elections are held and policies that benefit free blacks are enforced. But there is mass resistance, the Ku Klux Klan and similar white supremacy bands spring up, terrorizing the South in their night rides and burning crosses, lynchings become commonplace. The Panic of 1873 causes a deep recession, Northern public opinion tires of the endless struggle against the old Confederacy, leading to the final phase, Redemption. Federal troops are withdrawn from the South and the Southerners are free to rule as they see fit, Jim Crow laws are passed denying blacks their civil liberties and their ability to live a normal life with a decent paying job. The KKK and other night riders step up their lynchings to intimidate blacks, in some cases violently overthrowing legitimately elected local governments. […]
To win the war, Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, shared it with his Cabinet, and then pocketed the document until the fortunes of war improved for the North. After the victory at the Battle of Antietam and Grant’s victory at Vicksburg, Lincoln released the Emancipation Proclamation as an executive order issued under his war powers as Commander-In-Chief in September 1862.
What the Emancipation Proclamation did not do was emancipate any slaves immediately, nor did it emancipate the slaves in the border states loyal to the Union cause. Lincoln proclaimed that if the Confederacy surrendered by January 1, 1863, she could keep her slaves, but if the rebellion persisted after that date all slaves in the rebelling states would be free.
David Blight in his lecture says:
There were at least four immediate and visible effects of the Emancipation Proclamation. First, every forward movement the Union armies now would, whether some of those officers liked it or not, liberate more slaves. Second, news of this Proclamation, whatever the details and the fine print, would spread like wildfire across the South, and it would attract towards Union lines more freed people. We have testimony of Confederate soldiers and white Southerners saying they first heard about the Emancipation Proclamation from their slaves. Third, it committed the United States Government in the eyes of the world to Emancipation. That’s terribly important when we remember that Great Britain was on the verge of recognizing the Confederacy as an independent nation. Fourth, Lincoln formally authorizes once and for all, although it’s already begun to happen, the recruitment of black men into the Union Armies and Navy, and it authorizes a formal process now to recruit black men to the Union uniform. And before the war will end about ten percent of all Union forces will be African American– approximately 180,000–eighty percent of whom were former slaves, from the slave states. […]